ONE: A PRAYERFUL DECISION
The first element of sacrificial giving is that it is a decision borne out of prayer, recognizing the Holy Spirit urging on our need to return to God the “first fruits: of the material wealth we have earned or acquired. The step means taking time out, a pause, to pray and make a deliberate decision to change our spending habits that will make God the first recipient of our income.
TWO: DELIBERATELY PLANNED
The second element of sacrificial giving means being responsible to budget a certain amount to give back to the lord, taking care to account for family needs and obligations, and taking into consideration the family’s resources and personal circumstances. How much should we give? There is no magic number. But we can start with an assessment of our level of giving now. Is the proportion of our income that we give back to God the first portion? And does that portion adequately reflect our gratitude for God’s generosity?
Some people use the biblical tithe of the first 10% of their income as a guideline. Many Christian thinkers in the area of the stewardship of finances recommend that we give 5% to our Church through the offertory collection, 1% to the Diocese and 4% to other charities that serve the poor and needy and support the common good in our communities. There is no “right” answer. Your gift is your return to God a proportion of gifts God has given you, which you choose to share with your parish and other charities. Your decision about the amount that you give will be one, which makes sense and truly reflects your gratefulness to God for the gifts you have received.
“All shall give as they are able, according to the blessings which the Lord your God has given you” (Deut. 16:17)
THREE: CALLING FOR SACRIFICE
The third element is that a commitment be made that requires us to go beyond our consumer behavior’s “comfort zone.” The proportion of our gift becomes sacrificial when it causes us to cut back on other spending habits. When we give out of our need, like St. Mark’s Gospel story of the widow’s mite, then we experience spiritual transformation.
Perhaps the most important lesson we can take from this third element is that if we can give our gift and not notice it, it is not a sacrifice gift. The element of sacrifice is present when something about our lives changes in order for us to be able to give the gift. We re-prioritize our spending habits. We re-consider our values. Then, every time we make our sacrifice gift, we are able to recall the reasons why we chose to give.
Sacrificial giving is the steward’s way of following the Lord, who sacrificed everything so that we might have eternal life. We give up something of ourselves so that others can flourish. Then, we, in return, become transformed into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 cor. 9:7)